At the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting on 19 July, Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki presented to Ministers the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform package, which was launched by the European Commission on 13 July. The Ministers then held a public debate on the Commission proposal.
While all Member States welcomed the overall objective to make European fisheries more sustainable by restoring overfished European stocks, a variety of opinions and some serious reservations where raised on how the Commission proposes to achieve this objective in the CFP reform.
The UK, Denmark and Sweden were on the whole positive about the proposals, saying that the reform could be even more ambitious. Two major EU fishing nations, Spain and France, did not share this enthusiasm, criticising key elements of the proposals.
The French Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Bruno Le Maire stated that the introduction of individual transferable fishing rights were “not acceptable as proposed” and that a market for quotas could lead to the concentration of fishing rights into the hands of a few large operators. The German Secretary of State responsible for fisheries, Robert Kloos, agreed with this, saying that fishing rights were a public good, not for commercial exchange.
The Spanish Minister expressed her opposition to the Commission’s plans to partially eliminate discards from European Fisheries by 2016, calling them “unrealistic” a view shared by her French counterpart.
The Commission’s plans to set fishing levels to restore and maintain fish populations above levels which can produce the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) also came in for criticism. The Spanish Minister claimed that setting the target date at 2015 would have considerable social and economic repercussions and said the date should be delayed to 2020.
The Commission aims for entry into force of the reformed CFP by 1 January 2013. If this early exchange of views is indicative of what is to follow, there remains many months of hard debate and negotiation in the Council and European Parliament before the legislation is adopted.